Anxiety, like excitement or sadness, is a normal emotion that is part of the human experience. It is the brain’s method of responding to stress, potential threats, or danger.
At its core, it can be incredibly helpful and adaptive and is not an inherently harmful emotion. However, when anxiety outstays its welcome, it begins to create imbalance. The line can blur between a helpful response and a debilitating state of mind, and anxiety can become a chronic and pervasive experience.
When anxiety becomes persistent, it can negatively impact our bodies and minds. People often feel filled with constant worry, fear, or slight panic. Your brain might spend all of its time creating worse case scenarios, “what-ifs”, or rehashing imaginary conversations. You spend emotional and mental energy on these fake scenarios as if they are real, and find it difficult to disengage from them throughout the day. Even when you know what is logical and rational, you find yourself getting sucked back into the stories in your mind. There is a constant level of agitation and exhaustion from trying to keep up with the racing thoughts.
Maybe your stomach is in knots, or your heartbeat is usually high. You find it hard to take deep, full breaths throughout the day. Your palms may forever be sweaty or clammy, and your jaw is usually tense. You live inside your head. The only time you really notice your body is when something is wrong. Even when there are moments of joy and calm, you might feel like you are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Most people who struggle with anxiety have grown so accustomed to it that these physical manifestations become the norm.
The potential causes for anxiety are as diverse as each person who experiences it. Some folks have a history of anxiety in their family, which increases the likelihood that they will struggle with it as well. Many of us experienced a lot of stressors as children and weren’t provided the proper tools or level of comfort needed to help us cope effectively.
Anxiety can show up in the wake of a traumatic experience, during family conflict, or in the midst of health issues. It can accompany the feelings of uncertainty and instability that happen during major life transitions. And sometimes anxiety seems to come out of nowhere and we can’t make sense of it. There are countless other stressors that can lead to anxiety – we live in a stressful world! One of the scariest parts of anxiety is the worry that it’s going to feel like this forever.
No matter where our anxiety comes from or how it manifests, it is worth seeking some extra help if it is keeping you from living life fully. Anxiety can impact your relationships, ability to concentrate at work or school, sense of self, ability to perform, or level of engagement in social situations. Perhaps anxiety is a relatively new feeling for you, or maybe it has been your near-constant companion since you were young. However you experience it, you are not alone, and this experience doesn’t have to be your forever. Anxiety is one of the most prevalent and persistent mental health concerns in the United States, with millions of people struggling with it daily. Thank the stars, therapy is one of many effective tools that can help us manage our anxiety.
Social anxiety is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. Social anxiety is more than simply being shy! You might feel extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations, or that you are being critiqued by the people around you. You may avoid meeting new people altogether. Social anxiety can become so intense for some folks that they pull back from their daily lives. The fear becomes so overwhelming that attending school, work or everyday activities feel excruciating to bear. Others may be able to accomplish these activities, but experience a great deal of fear when they do them, or after. They can find themselves circling for hours in their mind about all of the interactions they had, how they performed, what the other people were thinking of them, etc. It is truly an exhausting place to be.
Signs of Social Anxiety...
- Rapid heart rate
- Blush, sweat, tremble or nausea
- Rigid posture, or speaking with an overly soft voice
- Difficult to make eye contact, be around people you do not know, or talk to people in social situations
- Feel self conscious or fear that people will judge you negatively
- Avoid places where there are others you do not know
Therapy is a really effective tool for learning to cope with and work through social anxiety. A therapist will be your sounding board to help identify what is real and what is your anxiety. The ability to speak openly and be vulnerable with someone who is caring, understanding, and non judgemental can create beautiful ripples out into the rest of our relationships.
Phobias are an intense, persistent fear of a specific object or situation that is out of proportion to its actual risk. For example, nervousness when driving next to an 18 wheeler is common. However, refusing to drive out of fear of an accident would be a phobia. They are hyper focused fears that begin to disrupt the daily lives of people who experience them.
It can be debilitating for someone who struggles with a phobia to talk about their fears. Intense feelings of panic can set in by simply thinking about the object or situation. People can easily fall into a fight/flight/freeze response when it comes to facing or discussing their fear. Phobias are often unique to the individual and can vary in symptoms and severity. They can range from everyday things, like driving or getting lab work, to more specific things that are particular to the person.
Signs of Phobia...
- Dizziness or lightheadedness when speaking/thinking about the fear
- Racing heart or tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath or nausea
- Extreme feelings of panic of fight/flight response
- Avoiding situations that could lead to exposure to the fear
A therapist can help you learn tools to gently work with your fear to find confidence in your daily life again.
At Mending Roots Healing Center, our therapists understand the struggles that come from living with anxiety. They take various approaches to help folks find peace and confidence including attachment work, sensorimotor psychotherapy, EMDR, narrative therapy, and play. Your therapist will take time to listen to your story and help you determine your unique goals for treatment.
They will help you to process and heal old wounds, develop more effective coping skills and grounding techniques, connect with your body, create new patterns, and shift your story. Our goal at Mending Roots is to help you feel safe, empowered, and hopeful while you engage in this work. Managing anxiety is a difficult process that takes time (more time than we usually want it to), but it is absolutely possible. This is not your forever! And you don’t have to do it alone. Mending Roots Healing Center is here to help you navigate the stress and overwhelm of being a human in this world.
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest taken between two deep breaths.” – Etty Hillesum
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